Authors: Craig Gaydas
Table of Contents
Book 2 of the Cartographer
Copyright (C) 2014 Craig Gaydas
Layout Copyright (C) 2014 by Creativia
Published 2014 by Creativia
eBook design by Creativia (www.creativia.org)
Cover art by http://www.thecovercollection.com/
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the author's permission.
Some fight for honor. Some fight for glory. Others fight for riches. No matter the cause, it only matters that you fight.
- Vanth the Adjudicator
The cycle of life knows only one ending. Death.
- Mortem the Destructor
Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
- Sun Tzu
Sometimes you have to start a war in order to have peace.
We have witnessed the beginning of the universe. I fear we will live to witness its end.
- Ibune the Progenitor
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea
- Revelations 21:1
My universal discombobulator-recombobulator must be on the fritz again.
- Grillick the Artificer
“I see a court-martial in our future.” Embeth frowned and shoved a grenade into the bandolier before reaching over and grabbing the last neutralizer. A cartridge for the weapon lay on a nearby table. He scowled at it before grabbing it, loading it into the gun and slipping it into an ankle holster.
“Let's worry about that later,” I muttered.
Kedge slipped his staff into the sling strapped to his back and fixed me with a hard look. I felt his monocled eye boring into me. He continued staring until finally I threw up my hands in exasperation.
“What?” I asked, mildly irritated.
He offered a weak smile before reaching into the folds of his robe. His closed fist emerged and he held it out. “Open your hand.”
I opened it reluctantly, realizing it remained difficult for me to trust him. He had been the former leader of our enemy, the Lumagom. No matter how many times he attempted to make amends for past misdeeds he was still responsible, in part, for the mess we found ourselves in. He hesitated before dropping a small, metallic object into my open hand. Despite the dirt and grime which had accumulated around the object I managed to observe small glimmers of gold. When I rubbed the grime away I saw it was a small, golden ankh.
“Is this what I think it is?” I asked, irritation giving way to surprise.
“Yes,” he replied. “I kept it safe for centuries in order to preserve the memory of Mars. This trinket is enchanted with good fortune. It has kept me safe up to this point. I pass it to you in the hope that its luck will transfer over to you.”
I was about to offer my thanks but Wraith interrupted us. He shoved several golf ball-sized objects into my hand. Instead of dimples, several tiny metallic diamonds were embedded in its surface.
“What are these?”
“Stun grenades, in order to keep the casualties to a minimum,” he explained.
“Thanks,” I replied, letting the cold metal tickle the palm of my hand as I turned them over and inspected them. “Good idea.”
“Of course it's a good idea. It was my idea,” he quipped.
Lianne clipped her sword to her belt and moved to my side. “We are ready.” She frowned at my apprehension. “Perhaps I should ask if you are.”
I shoved the grenades into my pocket and shrugged. “I guess so.” My reply did not satisfy her. Her scowl became annoying. “What do you expect me to say? Last month I was a teenager worrying about math grades, now I'm trying to save the world. It's a pretty difficult transition.”
Her frown faded and her features softened. “Sorry, Nathan. I seemed to have forgotten you are still young, and have a lot to learn.”
“I'm not much older than you, Lianne.” My reply, dryer than intended, caused a pained look to cross her face.
Before she could respond, Gard interrupted. “
Sir, Earth's satellites have moved out of position. We are cleared to launch
“Thank you, Gard.” Satou turned to us and called out over his shoulder. “Get ready and strap yourselves in, folks. We are ready to take off!”
Wraith hopped in the co-pilot chair while the rest of us did as Satou instructed. We launched from Docking Bay 5 into the emptiness of space. I chuckled nervously when I glanced at our “crew”. Two Council members, an emotionless robot, a Defense Fleet Captain, an ornery weapons specialist and a human teenager whose greatest accomplishment up to this point was getting an A on his Advanced Physics exam. We were an odd group about to do something that only a short time ago I would have never in my wildest dreams thought possible.
We were about to invade Earth
“I gave you explicit instructions to remain on the Argus until we arrived!” Meta's face grew darker with each word. His enraged face filled the screen.
Embeth remained resolute and matched the High Prince's scowl with one of his own. “I refuse to leave my men behind. It was a judgment call, plain and simple.” Embeth tapped the control panel impatiently.
“Embeth, you should know better! Your men wouldn't have been left behind. Helios Protocol is a proactive defense measure,” Meta explained. “They would have been recovered.”
“What have you done?” Enraged, I stepped between Embeth and the screen.
Meta's face turned crimson when he saw me. “You,” he spat. “I am beginning to think we made a mistake integrating you into the Explorer's League. Humans are nothing but trouble.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I roared.
Meta leaned back and took a deep breath. Behind him, the remaining members of the council whispered to each other. They seemed oblivious to the exchange going on in front of them, as if they had something more important to work on. Their indifference only served to aggravate me more.
“Your barbaric history,” Meta replied. “Mankind, throughout history, has shown that their only desires are money, power and bloodshed. For eons we have waited patiently, yet they failed time and time again to evolve into a species more focused on knowledge and self-improvement. Despite all of the technological advancements afforded them, they regress morally, ethically and in most cases, mentally.”
“Now wait a minute—” Kedge interrupted.
Meta held up his hand to stop him. “There is nothing more to say on the matter. This debate is pointless.” He leaned back and whispered something in Hark-Kalech's ear.
“Are you sure that is a wise course?” he asked with uncertainty.
“Of course I am,” Meta roared. “Just do it!”
Hark-Kalech glanced uneasily at us before leaving. Varooq and Kale followed him out the door.
“There are many things you do not know regarding recent events.” Meta returned his attention to the screen. His initial anger seemed to have ebbed. “This is more than just simple treachery by Calypso.”
“What do you mean?” Embeth inquired.
“Charr is not being destroyed by natural phenomena, as he claims. I admit there had been some unusually high volcanic activity which threatened the planet's crust, but it had stopped a while ago. Members of the Science Cooperative had developed a way to repair any damage done and are currently based on the planet, conducting field tests.”
“What?” I scratched my head. “But Calypso told us—”
Meta dismissed me with a wave of his hand. “I know what he told you. It was just a lie to help cover his true intentions.”
Lianne brought her fist down violently on the control panel. “All of these riddles and no answers. What is his true motivation?”
“We are not sure. But we are going to find out.”
I suspected the High Prince wasn't telling us everything.
What are you hiding?
Why are you hiding it?
I held my tongue since he was angry enough and we did not have the time to conduct a verbal war. We had more important battles to fight.
“I refuse to go back until we are done,” I insisted. As soon as the words fell from my lips, everyone turned to me. I swallowed hard and cleared my throat under the weight of their stares. “I refuse!” I continued defiantly. “Mankind doesn't need a second relocation. We have a responsibility to stop this.”
have a responsibility?” Meta scoffed. His demeaning tone cut me more than any weapon ever could. “It is not your decision to make.”
“No, it's not,” Embeth interrupted. “But as commander of the Defense Fleet it is mine. I made the decision to recover my soldiers and stop Calypso.”
Meta narrowed his eyes. “Your decision lingers dangerously close to treachery, Embeth. You could be stripped of your seat on the Council.” When Meta saw that he would not back down he waved his hand dismissively and turned toward the Council members. “We do this with or without you.”
Satou turned and whispered to Embeth. “We will be landing in the East River in five minutes. So far everything looks clear.”